ESL Pop Music Lesson Plan

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

In this lesson plan, ELL students will learn about the genre of pop music. After listening to music clips, they will be able to describe pop music, identify pop music icons, and determine if a song is in the pop genre.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe elements of pop music.
  • Identify pop culture icons throughout history.
  • Differentiate between pop music and other genres of music.


45-60 minutes

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.1.c

Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.1.d

Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.


  • Several 15-20 second clips of pop songs
  • Several 15-20 second clips of songs from other genres (rock, rap, indie, classical, etc.)
  • Pictures and song clips of the following pop icons:
    • Elvis Presley
    • The Beach Boys
    • Elton John
    • Queen
    • Whitney Houston
    • Michael Jackson
    • Spice Girls
    • Britney Spears
    • Lady Gaga
    • Justin Timberlake
    • Ariana Grande
    • One Direction
  • Paper plates
  • Crayons

Instructions & Activities

Begin with the opening question, 'How do you feel when you listen to music?' Have students turn and talk to discuss this question with a partner. Discuss student responses. Talk about how different kinds of music can make you feel different ways. Explain to students that they are going to learn about a certain type of music known as 'pop music.'

Characteristics of Pop Music

  • Write the word 'pop music' on the board. Explain to students that they are going to listen to a series of 15-20 second clips of songs that are in the pop genre. While they are listening, they need to listen to how the music sounds and how it makes them feel.
  • Here are some suggestions for clips to play for students:
    • 'Thriller' by Michael Jackson
    • 'Bye, Bye, Bye' by *NSYNC
    • 'Imagine' by John Lennon
    • 'Rolling in the Deep' by Adele
    • 'Single Ladies' by Beyonce
    • 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA
  • Talk with students about what they thought about while listening. Record student responses in a web. Explain that the web displays characteristics of pop music. Depending on student responses, additional guidance might need to be provided by the teacher to get to accurate characteristics. Here are some examples of what should be on the chart:
    • Catchy tune
    • Well-known/mass produced
    • Has a beat/rhythm that makes you want to dance
    • Highly produced

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